It’s Pride Month and Houston Furniture Bank is proud to be celebrating sixteen years of partnership with the Montrose Center! The Montrose Center is a Houston institution that is committed to empowering primarily lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families. Since 1978, they have been striving to make permanent, positive changes in attitudes and behavior, working towards a world in which all LGBT individuals can realize their fullest potential. The Montrose Center offers “integrated care,” and also serves as the cultural hub of Houston’s LGBT community, “home” to dozens of LGBT-affirming social and civic organizations. We sat down with Angelic, one of the Montrose Center’s Anti-Violence Specialists, to learn how together the two agencies are Making Empty Houses Homes.

Houston Furniture Bank is a charitable organization that helps provide furniture to families in need through a network of Distribution Partner Agencies like the Montrose Center. HFB relies on these agencies to act as caseworkers, identifying clients with unmet needs and connecting them with services. The clients who use Houston Furniture Bank are in transition, affected by domestic violence, poverty and health concerns. Each day at Houston Furniture Bank, eight appointments are available during which caseworkers bring their clients to “shop” for essential furniture. The furniture itself has been donated, both by private citizens and by industry partners.

At the Montrose Center, Angelic is an Anti-Violence Specialists. Her clients are in transition because, like many who come through the doors of Houston Furniture Bank, they are fleeing domestic violence, hate crimes, human trafficking or sexual assault. The clients that Angelic brings to shop in the Furniture Distribution Center require immediate housing. Angelic tells us that for those processing trauma, selecting furniture can be very empowering and that having the basics of domestic life such as a bed, a couch and a table can help create a sense of stability. In her work, Angelic has observed first hand how “getting an apartment gives not only shelter but also independence.”

A trained therapist and social worker, Angelic, has been at the Montrose Center for four years. Having worked with diverse populations facing a myriad of issues from substance abuse to homelessness and mental health, Angelic was eager to be of service to a new community in need of her training. She loves her work. Though she is not a morning person, Angelic finds that she is eager to arrive at the Montrose Center each day and is buoyed by the knowledge that the interventions she facilitates are changing lives. For Angelic, “the Montrose Center is a happy place, even though we deal with sad situations and trauma.”

Houston Furniture Bank works with diverse members of the community, including community service workers and second chance employees. Angelic reports that during her visits to the Furniture Distribution Center, she and her clients have always felt supported by the staff. She recalled the welcoming doors leading into the Furniture Distribution Center, featuring a mural inscribed with Houston Furniture Bank’s mission statement, Making Empty Houses Homes. Though it can be pretty warm in the summer with no air conditioning, her clients are always happy to arrive at the Furniture Distribution Center. Angelic knows first hand that Houston Furniture Bank depends on donations.  And while some items might not always be available, she reports that everyone is always able to get a bed and most can find the essential furniture they need to begin anew. Angelic remains in contact with some of her clients for years, and reports that they are still utilizing the furniture in their new homes, now living stable lives.

Houston Furniture Bank works with other departments at the Montrose Center, including their Flood Relief and Rapid Rehousing programs. In total, the Montrose Center was able to provide furniture to 42 households in 2018.

We asked Angelic why Pride is still important to celebrate in 2019. She explained that this is an important year for the community because it marks 50 years since the summer of 1969 when the Stonewall Riots took place. In addition to this important milestone, Angelic reminded us that while much progress has been made, members of the LGBT community are still at risk of violence. For example, in 2018, 26 transgender individuals suffered violent deaths in the US, according to the Human Rights Campaign. So far in 2019, seven transgender people have been violently killed, according to the HRC. “We are empowering people to remember how far we have come but also to take note of how much further we have to go,” said Angelic.

There are many ways that Houstonians can celebrate Pride this month. For a full list, consult their Pride Guide. Not only will the Montrose Center be putting on several events, but many area organizations and businesses are celebrating on their behalf with events designed to support the work of the Montrose Center year round.